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October 1, 2020 5:15 am

A Safe Sukkot — at Home and Outside

avatar by Ethel G. Hofman / JNS.org

Opinion

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stand inside a sukkah in Jerusalem, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Photo: Sebastian Scheiner / Pool via Reuters.

JNS.orgSukkot, the joyous Jewish Thanksgiving, was originally an agricultural holiday — a time of gathering a bountiful harvest. The sukkah itself — the primary symbol of the holiday — is a reminder of hastily built shelters that the Jews endured in their 40-year desert trek on their way to the Promised Land.

Following an especially solemn Yom Kippur — and after months of grappling with coronavirus lockdowns, testing, face masks, and limited gatherings — Sukkot brings a sigh of relief. The outdoors is a safer space, and so eating in the sukkah, albeit with social distancing, is particularly appealing. We can eat every meal in the sukkah, even if it means schlepping food in from the kitchen. After all, time is what we have right now. And it sure beats a Zoom call.

With kids and adults pitching in, sukkahs can be built in backyards and on apartment balconies. We may not be able to gather corn stalks and fancy fronds from the farms and markets we once went to each fall, but branches and bamboo can work to make a loose roof trellis so that stars can be seen at night while still providing some shade during daytime. Decorate with fruit like cranberries, but keep in mind that fresh produce does attract bees and wasps. If necessary, substitute with recyclable plastic fruit and vegetables, or homemade paper chains, to avoid painful stings and to be mindful of those with allergies.

The dishes below make the most of the seasonal produce. Other than the meringue-based Strawberry-Kiwi Fruit Pavlova, all can be prepared in advance. Sukkot is a celebration, so go ahead and ladle the Buttermilk Borscht in fine china or rarely used teacups, rather than in pedestrian soup bowls. Yet even if some dishes are served on paper or plastic, if the food is tasty and the company good, it will be a holiday to remember.

Some recipes for Sukkot can be found here.

Ethel G. Hofman is a widely syndicated American Jewish food and travel columnist, author and culinary consultant.

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